SUMMERSIDE – The scenario is simple.
A win will send the Summerside D. Alex MacDonald Ford Western Capitals into the second round of the MHL (Maritime Junior Hockey League) playoffs, and a victory by the Campbellton Tigers sets up a Game 6 between the two teams back in northern New Brunswick on Sunday night. That is what’s at stake when the Capitals take a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven Eastlink North Division semifinal series into Game 5 at Eastlink Arena in Summerside on Friday at 7 p.m.
“We just want to go in, and play our best game,” said Capitals forward and captain Morgan MacDonald, 20. “Obviously, we want to close out the series, but they are a strong team and come hard every game.
“We just want to make sure we are doing our job to get things done, and keep working from there.”
MacDonald is well aware that “closing out a team” is very difficult.
“Nothing is finished until you win four games,” emphasized MacDonald, who is from Little Pond, near Souris. “We are going to have to prepare the exact same way.
“We are going to have to play hard, because we know they will be coming hard and they are playing for their lives. We want to make sure we are doing the things we need to do to be successful.”
Summerside D. Alex MacDonald Ford Western Capitals’ rookie defenceman Jordan Spence is tied with forward and team captain Morgan MacDonald with a team-leading three post-season goals.
Keys to series
Keys to the Caps’ success in this series to date include outstanding goaltending by Alex Bishop, strong defensive play, efficient play on special teams and timely scoring. After dropping Game 1 on home ice by a 3-2 score, the Capitals have answered back with three straight wins – 6-3, 3-0 and 4-1.
“Honestly, we had a great game defensively (in Game 4 on Wednesday),” said MacDonald in a post-game phone interview with the Journal Pioneer. “We had a lot of guys step up, a lot of guys blocked shots throughout the game, which was a big part and makes it easier for Bish.
“We did a lot of little things well, small chips, getting pucks deep and out that obviously don’t seem like a big thing at the time, but it could come down to generating or eliminating a scoring chance,” explained MacDonald, who is tied with rookie defenceman Jordan Spence of Cornwall with a team-leading three post-season goals.
“It (scoring goals) just generates from hard work,” said MacDonald, who scored seven goals in 48 regular-season games. “I’m just trying to keep things simple, and play a hard style of game.
“The chances are coming and that’s nice, but winning comes first. I want to put the team first, and make sure we are doing little things to get the job done. Any time you can contribute (offensively), it’s a bonus.”
Capitals head coach Billy McGuigan said his message doesn’t change, despite the fact his team holds a commanding series lead.
“We have to continue to stay out of the penalty box, get underneath and above pucks defensively and make sure we are battling to compete for every single puck,” said McGuigan, who agrees it is very important for the Caps to win on Friday night to earn some valuable rest, not only physically but mentally as well.
“Playoff time is a real emotional time, not only for the players but for the coaching staffs as well,” offered McGuigan.” Sometimes you are battling friends, and (Tigers head coach) Greg Leland on the other side is a friend of mine, and it’s a battle every single night.
“You go to battle against each other, but at the end of the day there’s a lot of emotions for both sides.”